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Adventures at Ridge A

24 January, 2012
by

Luke’s Diary – Day 43

Monday 23rd January, 2012

So tonight we arrived back at the South Pole after spending 3 nights at Ridge A.

What is Ridge A?

The highest point on the Antarctic Plateau – located on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, is Dome A.  The Chinese were the first to reach it and have established a summer base there – Kunlun Station.  They are currently running the original PLATO, and have just finished commissioning PLATO-A.  If you head towards the South Pole from Dome A for a few hundred kilometers you will reach a spot that Dr Craig Kulesa of the University of Arizona and Professor John Storey and Professor Michael Ashley of the University of New South Wales claim is even dryer and calmer and only 50m lower altitude!

With an ailing economy and a reliance on the Russians to get men into space and supplies into Antarctica, the Americans ……………………………………………………………….redacted…………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………….redacted…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… sent two Kiwis and two Americans flown by two Canadians to install a remote power station paid for by Australia to claim the spot for Science!

Ridge A even has a Wikipedia page apparently – link.  No, I didn’t create it, but as one of only 7 people to have ever been there, I might have to update it.

Ridge A is a flat, empty, flat, white, flat, expanse that is about 4000 m above sea level, is flat, and very cold.  If you look on a topographic map of the scale of about Antarctica you will see that there is a ‘ridge’ from Dome A towards the South Pole.  Dome A is the name given to the highest point of the plateau, and Ridge A is the name given to this point next to it as it begins to slope down to the south pole.

Since I cant find a good enough topographical map to post here, to give you a sense of how un-dome-like Dome A is and how un-ridge-like Ridge A is, the 4000 m contour line encircles an area roughly the size of the North Island and the ‘summit’ is only a further 93 m above sea level.

The expedition

Summary:

So we went to Ridge A to install a power plant that will power a tiny weeny telescope that cant even see in visible wavelengths so the Americans can say they also have a presence on the top of Antarctica.  Or because we will finally be able to map the location of elemental, molecular, and ionised carbon in the Milky Way that has thus-far been obscured by galactic dust at a fraction of the cost of going to space.  Which ever sounds more awesome.

So I will write about our exploits at Ridge A over the next few days, but first I’ll leave this taster for what its like to fly across the Antarctic Plateau.  I was using my phone as a GPS tracker on the journey to Ridge A so I couldnt take any photos.  Luckily I was able to draw the view from memory in PowerPoint so you can all experience it.

If you ever want to know what it looks like out of the window of a plane flying over the Antarctic Plateau, then look no further than this photo realistic image drawn from memory in PowerPoint

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Leanne Bycroft permalink
    24 January, 2012 10:42 am

    We love your blogs Luke!

  2. Abby MacDowell permalink
    27 January, 2012 6:08 pm

    Like a Rothko painting!

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